Black Stars Above (#1 – 2) – Lonnie Nadler

2 out of 5

A young girl in the late 1800s finds the escape she’s been seeking from her set-in-stone lot in life via a task from a stranger to deliver a package – but don’t open it! – requiring passage through a forbidden section of the woods.

Jenna Cha’s weighty, emotive art pairs well with Brad Simpson’s minimalist palette of browns and blacks, pacing out the diary narration of our lead to suggest a sense of ominousness, building toward and around the girl’s destination, and whatever’s in that package…

Suggest a sense of ominousness. Writer Lonnie Nadler, unfortunately, gets in his own story’s way with the clunky journaling voiceover used, which either does too much telling versus Cha’s showing, or tells us things that have no connection with what we’re being shown, or simply narrates things in a way that doesn’t make logical sense for a journal. Scratched out lines are added for naturalism, and, I’m guessing, for some spooky factor – “unspoken” words or concepts redacted – but these are often equally illogical in how they’re applied, making any spooky implications very forced. When we’re not journaling, we’re dealing with excessive dialogue streams that, again, aren’t balanced very well between giving us useful information and clutter, and when the story relaxes into more visual, mood-setting beats – wandering through a storm; hints of Lovecraftian beasts in the dark – there are unexplained, oddly paced cutaways that hinder these beats from landing.

There are some strong concepts here – our lead’s dissatisfaction with her family, and the “get married and bear children” path they’ve chosen for her comes across believably, and is expressed well in the dialogue – and although the general pacing and reveals around the receipt of the package and what’s in it are somewhat bumbled, it’s still an intriguing central conceit. However, when there are so many other things getting in the way of enjoying those highlights, it’s not encouraging enough for me to want to see the tale through to its end.